Darlene Foster's Blog

Guest Author: Debra Purdy Kong

Posted on: January 23, 2018

My guest today is Debra Purdy Kong, a fellow Vancouver author who writes entertaining mysteries. She talks about where she gets her ideas and gives some great advice to anyone thinking of writing.

Debra Purdy Kong’s volunteer experiences, criminology diploma, and various jobs inspired her to write mysteries set in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her employment as a campus security patrol and communications officer provide the background for her two Evan Dunstan mystery novellas, as well as her Casey Holland transit security novels.

Debra has published short stories in a variety of genres as well as personal essays, and articles for publications such as Chicken Soup for the Bride’s Soul, B.C. Parent Magazine, and The Vancouver Sun. In November 2017, she released her 5th Casey Holland mystery thriller, KNOCK KNOCK, and her 2nd Evan Dunstan humorous mystery novella, A TOXIC CRAFT.

How long have you been seriously writing? I’ve been writing for over thirty-five years and published my first short story back in 1982, for which I was paid $95. I hadn’t been writing long, and thought “well, this isn’t so hard”. Another three years passed before I published a single story and that was for free. It was quite a while before I was paid for my stories again. After that first piece was published, though, I’ve written nearly every day of my life.

Where do you get your ideas? While working on short fiction during the first decade of my career, ideas came from real-life experiences. For example, one day I was at a wading pool in the park and saw a baby nearly drown. Another time, I overheard a woman dissing her grandkids for being weird. Later, ideas for mysteries such as A Toxic Craft were inspired by my work experiences in security. I usually worked on Sundays which were really quiet. Patrolling empty buildings turned out to be a great experience, as it allowed my imagination to run wild.

What is your writing process? My writing process has changed a lot over the years, depending on circumstances. These days, I have a part-time day job Monday-to-Friday, so I’ll write for about an hour before work, again during my break, and again in the late afternoon before dinner. By early evening, I’ll switch to social networking or writing-related tasks because I’m too tired for major editing. I seem to concentrate best for up to forty-five minutes at a time. After that time, the focus fades away.

How long does it take you to write a book? The first draft of a book takes several months to complete. It’s tougher to determine how long it takes before the book is ready for publication because I never work on one book at a time. After a first draft is written, I’ll put it away for a few weeks or even months before starting the second draft revisions. Right now, I have three novels and two novellas in various stages of editing. On a daily basis, I work on two books at a time. One novel in the morning, the other in the afternoon. I don’t publish a book every year, although, in late 2017, two of my books were released which was unusual.

Who are some of your favourite authors and why? One of my favourite authors is the late great Sue Grafton who recently passed away. I so admired her writing style and her commitment to one series. I also admire her principles. Having worked originally as a screenplay editor, she refused to ever let anyone turn her books into movies.
I also admire the late British author John Mortimer of the Rumpole series. I loved the characters and Mortimer’s sense of humour. The same is true of the late Douglas Adams, author of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which is still one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.
Some of my other favourites are Tony Hillerman, Maya Angelou, Alice Munro, Deborah Harkness, Diana Gabaldon, and Ray Bradbury. There are so many more, but the list would go on forever!

What advice would you give an aspiring author? I have five pieces of advice for an aspiring author. One is to read as much as you can in every genre. Read the best books that you can find as they’ll teach you a lot about voice and style. It’s hugely inspiring to read a beautifully crafted paragraph. You can learn so much from a well-crafted book.
If you’re afraid to start or are stuck on a page and can’t seem to move forward, jumpstart things by writing in a journal. The very act of writing, regardless of topic, will put you in touch with your creative side. If you can’t think of anything to write, try a writing prompt. There are plenty of sites that offer writing prompts.
Once you’ve started, or even if you need inspiration to write, join a good writers’ group. There is nothing like learning from those who are working through stories, novels, and memoirs. Great discussions can ensue and just as importantly, you’ll learn that mistakes, self-doubt, and rejection are a natural part of the process.
If there are no writers’ groups in your area or ones that appeal to you, take a writing course or a workshop. There are good ones online, but many cities offer courses through local community and recreation programs, and of course, libraries are a valuable resource for courses and information.
My final piece of advice is this. Writing is not a quick trip to fame and fortune. The truth is that it simply doesn’t happen for most authors. Writing success (and success is how you define it, not anyone else) is a long journey without shortcuts. Many writers are goal oriented, which is fine—I have plenty of them—but if you aren’t enjoying the journey along the way toward achieving those goals, then do something else. Life is too short to resent what you’re doing because fame and fortune haven’t shown up. Be realistic about your expectations. The best part about a writing career for me is the writing itself. That hasn’t changed in all these years.

Tell us about what you are working on now. I’m currently working on the sixth installment in my Casey Holland mystery series. This book has been in the works for six or seven years, but other projects needed to be completed first. I’m working on draft #5 right now, and I hope to have it ready for publication next year.

The other novel I’m working on my first urban fantasy that focuses on Wicca, witches, and healing. At the moment, I’m struggling through draft #2, which is slow-going as it requires a lot of work. I’m over 200 pages into the second draft, which is over the halfway point. This is a whole new genre with new possibilities and connections creeping into the story every day. At this point, I’m not even sure what other types of changes this revision will bring, but I’m looking forward to seeing what emerges over the coming months.

Thank you so much for being my guest today, Debra. I look forward to more books coming from you as it seems you have an endless supply of ideas! 

Links to the 5th Casey Holland mystery, KNOCK KNOCK:
Apple (itunes): http://tinyurl.com/y96xscpv
Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/y6wejnls
Amazon: myBook.to/KnockKnock

The latest attack in a string of violent Vancouver home invasions kills senior Elsie Englehart. Security officer Casey Holland is devastated. She is supposed to be watching over elderly bus riders in an affluent, high-risk area, but she’s let Elsie down. Determined to keep others safe, Casey escorts an elderly man home, but an armed intruder attacks them both. Hospitalized and angry, Casey struggles to regain control of her life, despite interference from family and colleagues—and the postponement of her long-awaited wedding. Yet another home invasion compels Casey to take action, but at what cost to her health and her relationships? In Knock Knock, Debra Purdy Kong’s fifth installment of the Casey Holland series, the risks have never been higher and the consequences more deadly.

Links to the 2nd Evan Dunstan novella, A TOXIC CRAFT:
Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/ycsvuaj5
Amazon: http://getbook.at/AToxicCraft

My review of A Toxic Craft

A fun read set at a craft fair. Evan Dunstan, a security guard, has his hands full. His feisty grandmother is in charge of the craft fair and things aren’t going well. His best bud, Scully, is head over heels in love and his coworker is not being very helpful. Who is sabotaging the fair and why did one vendor pass out in the washroom? Full of interesting characters and lots of action, this book will keep you on your toes. Wait till you hear what some of these seniors get up to. Can Evan find the culprit before it’s too late? Darlene Foster

More information about Debra and her books at www.debrapurdykong.com

Debra’s blog  https://debrapurdykong.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DebraPurdyKong 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/debra.purdykong

68 Responses to "Guest Author: Debra Purdy Kong"

Very inspiring post and now I am off to find books! Thank you!

Thank you! I really appreciate the support and hope you’ll enjoy Evan’s adventures 🙂

Thanks, Chris. I know you will enjoy them.

This was a really interesting interview. I’m glad you headed your tips for writers with one on reading. I think writers must be readers first.

Exactly, Mary. It’s still one of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever had!

Thank you so much for hosting me today, Darlene. It’s a pleasure to be here!!

Pleased to have you here and happy to let everyone know about you and your books.

Reblogged this on Mystery Deb and commented:
I’m delighted to be a guest on Darlene Foster’s blog today!

That was fascinating – and undoubtedly helpful; thank you!

So pleased you found it helpful.

Thank you! I’m so glad you found it helpful!

I am amazed at your literary output – kudos, Debra! Of course, I agree that “Writing is not a quick trip to fame and fortune.” After a long career in education, I am writing memoir because I want to preserve a legacy of family stories.

By the way, we visited your fair city in August for our 50th wedding anniversary and then took the ferry to Victoria. Both lovely in their own way.

Thank you for your kind comments, Marian. I’ve been writing a long time, and it’s been one step at a time all the way, so I never think of my output as all that amazing 🙂 Congrats on writing your memoir. I facilitate a writing group class at my local community centre. Some of the most incredible, meaningful pieces of writing are memoirs that our attendees are working on. Glad you enjoyed Vancouver and Victoria. Hopefully, you had good weather!!

Your book looks delightful, Debra. I love that it’s about seniors. And, I enjoyed reading how writing is woven into all parts of your day. Truly addicted (as am I!).

I guess when we are writers, it is never far from our mind. Thanks, Jacqui!

Thank you for your kinds comments, Jacqui. You’ve made my day! The older I become, the more inclined I am to write about seniors. There are so many different lifestyles and values and complexities involved.

Great interview with a great personality! Enjoyed reading it and might take a look at this book. Thank you!

So pleased you enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by.

Thank you, Cecilia. I really appreciate your kind comments.

Nice interview, Debra (and good job Darlene as an interviewer). I think your writing tips are right on! The only problem I have as a huge reader (and a daily writer like yourself) is that sometimes I’m so ‘into’ a book by another author, that I spend less time writing on my own stories. Need a lot of self-discipline. Congrats on your books and your stick-to-it-ness.

Thank you so much for your comments! One of the things I do to make sure I’m not spending quality writing time reading, is to read towards the end of the day when editing just doesn’t work that well for me. Usually, I’ll read while I’m on a treadmill or later in the evening. It’s always something to look forward to 🙂

Yes, that’s what I try to do now too. Reading becomes a treat to look forward to when I’ve accomplished my ‘1000 words for the day” as well as writing/reading blog posts and teaching my creative writing classes. Then, ahhhh, I can sink into someone else’s world. 🙂

Thanks, Pam! I tend to use reading as a reward. If I finish writing this chapter, I can stop, have a cup of tea and read for a break. Of course, sometimes the dog has other ideas and I have to spend my reading time giving her a walk. Probably better for me anyway. I don´t read as much as I used to but still fit some reading time in.

Taking the time to walk Dot is well worth every second. She’s such a sweetie, and maybe you’ll think up of the next story for Amanda as the two of you walk. 🙂

Wow! Nice interview with an interesting author. Glad to meet Debra😊Thanks for sharing❤

Thanks so much for stopping in.

You are welcome Darlene😊

Thank you for your lovely comments. I’m glad you liked the interview. I don’t really talk about myself that often, but Darlene’s kind invitation gave me an opportunity to stop and think about my writing life. It’s been a great experience!

You are welcome Debra. It’s not your fault anyway, it’s Darlene hehe..And she is right, you are an interesting author…Nice to know you😊❤

Wow! I am learning from you😊 thanks for sharing Debra. And thanks to Darlene too ❤

Darlene, a great and informative interview with incisive questions. Debra, lovely to get to you know a bit here! I’m very impressed with all your books – congratulations! I too was published early one and won good prize money for a short story and thought, yep, this is easy. It was then that the hard graft set in! Oh, another fan of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy…one of my favourite books too and my copy is falling apart through my countless readings. Wonderful advice for all writers given from your experience and reading has to be key! Good luck with your latest ventures.

Thanks, Annika. Looks like you have a lot in common with Debra!

Thank you so much for your lovely comments, Annika. It sounds like we have a lot in common!! And yes, those early successes can be a bit of a red herring, but they help keep us going, I think 🙂

I am really pleased to find another author who works on a couple of books at once. Five is amazing, I am working on four and it is hard work.

I am in awe of people who can work on a number of books at once. You are both amazing!!

Thanks, Darlene. The upside about working on multiple projects is that I always have something to do and look forward to. If one project is stalling, or I’m growing stale, I’ll move to another, which kind of jump starts things.

Thank your for your comments, and yes, it is hard work. Right now, three of the books are my main focus. The other two are on the back burner, waiting for their turn to be revised and new depths explored 🙂

I can see how that would work.

Lovely to read this interesting and informative interview. Terrific post.


Thanks, Peta. Always good to read about how other authors work.

Thank you, Peta. I’m happy that you enjoyed the interview!

I read several books at one time, but have a hard time imagining writing more than one book at a time! Loved the interview and the writing tips. I’ve released one book – an adult picture book in the humor genre – and the work of promoting the book is tough for me. I wonder if you have a publicist, Debra and Darlene, or do you do your own promotional work?

Thank you for your comments! This will sound strange but I have a bit of trouble reading more than one book at a time, but writing them is no trouble. I think it’s because I spend a great deal of time outlining and focusing on my plots. Reading is something I usually do just before bedtime when my brain just isn’t functioning as well. I don’t have a publicist, but I’ve considered hiring one. It’s a challenge to find someone who is affordable and will help you get good results. Most of what a publicist does I have and can do myself, but on a much smaller scale, which is okay for now.

I don’t have a publicist. My publisher does some promoting for me and I do some as well. It is a lot of work but can be fun also. I enjoy doing presentations especially.

It is out of my comfort zone. I need to keep trying though and I will! Glad to know it can get to be fun, Darlene.

Enjoyable interview. Thanks Debra and Darlene.

Thank you for reading it, Stevie. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Thank you both for a very enjoyable and insightful interview. I am with you on the importance of reading other authors but I cannot imagine myself writing two books at once…

So pleased you enjoyed the post!

Thank you for your comments. Yes, it’s still one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received! Writing more than one book at a time is a long-time habit. I survive by keeping lots of notes on my characters, plots, and so forth.

I stand in awe of writers. I have a great appreciation for what you go through…finding time to write…structuring characters, etc…etc..etc. Great post Darlene and thanks for the introduction to Debra’s work! Great interview to both of you!!

Thanks for those kind words, Kirt. We writers are a bit of an odd bunch. But I am always impressed with visual artists like you and my potter daughter. I guess we all have a need to express ourselves creatively in some way.

Hi Kirt, and thank you for the lovely comment. Writing novels is daunting at times, but still immensely satisfying after all these years. As Darlene says, it fills the need for creative expression.

I like a good mystery and enjoyed having the opportunity to learn of a new author.

Thank you, Karen. For me, it’s always lovely to meet new mystery readers. Some of my favorite discussions are all about great mysteries.

There is nothing like a good mystery!!

Nice one. Very inspiring

Thank you for your kind comments!

Good advice, and an interesting interview. It’s taken me a long time to appreciate that if you’re not enjoying writing you should do something else. I thought it was meant to be a hard and painful slog, but as you say, life is short and we should fill it with things that inspire us. Congratulations on your publications so far (both Debra and Darlene) and long may you continue to get, and give, pleasure from your writing pursuits.

Writing can be tough at times but if I´m not writing I´m not happy, and I think that is the key. A friend stopped writing as she no longer found joy in it and lost the desire. That´s OK. It is a very personal thing. Thanks for your kind words as always, Lorna. Debra gave a great interview. xo

Thank you so much for your kind comments, Lorna. And yes, I agree with Darlene that there are tough times & disappointments and setbacks, but every career has ups and downs. It’s about choosing how we want to spend our time. As long as I feel there’s a point to this, and enjoy writing, I’ll keep going.

[…] Debra Purdy Kong, who has just launched her 6th mystery novel. Debra has been a guest on my blog, here where she talked about how she gets her ideas and gives some great advice to anyone thinking of […]

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